Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review: Sunshine Town by Maniissh Aroraa

I had a rather tough time preparing for my first-semester college exams. Those weren't easy days. I had just lost my mother a year back and then had had to undergo a delicate back surgery a few months before I had taken admission in the new college. As the exam time dawned, I was stranded alone at home and concentrating on studies was difficult. My father and my brother did not expect me to do well. They knew I had had to go through a lot these past few months.

But despite the distractions and the mental wounds gnawing at me, despite the overpowering feeling of loneliness, I pulled myself up, poured my heart out in the exam preparations and scored exactly 75 percent. My confidence grew and I topped the college in the next semester, registering 91 %. It was one of the high-points of my life and the adulation I received in its wake was something I had never tasted before. It made me believe that focus and hard work towards a set goal does yield positive results. Even at this stage of my life, when hope feels lost, I regularly look back at that phase when I seek motivation.

Now, why am I telling you all this? Because reading Sunshine Town by debut author Maniissh Aroraa brought back some of those memories.

It’s a book aimed specifically at teenagers and college students who, more often than not, find themselves at a crossroads in their life, and grapple with several career decisions. If taken in the right spirit, the book can work well as a motivation vehicle.


Sunshine Town is centered on a teenager, Shlok, and the trials and tribulations of his career and love life. Hailing from a typical middle-class Indian family in the small town of Varanasi, Shlok wants to fulfill the dream of his father of becoming a successful doctor. While he is a pretty average student, he has a lot of resolve. But despite his repeated and meticulously planned attempts at success in his studies, Shlok fails and begins to doubt his worth, feels lost and loses hope.

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In the meanwhile, he also meets Natasha, his next-door neighbour, and falls in love with her. She brings in some light and cheer in his life. But here, too, Shlok has to struggle to keep his relationship afloat.

Will Shlok be able to achieve the dream of his father? Or will he find a different path in his life? These are some of the questions that Sunshine Town addresses and takes us on the coming of age journey of this everyday teenager, while giving us some valuable life lessons along with it.

What I liked about the book:

The lead character

For any story to be interesting, the lead character has to be, at some level, relatable. Shlok is a likable teenager and behaves and feels in a way that most of us have in our lives.

He is a sincere lad and despite the adverse situations, keeps fighting hard to stay afloat and find meaning in his life.

Shlok is an average student. But through sheer hard work, careful planning and scheduling of his studies, and relentless dedication, he manages to pass through several difficult examinations. When not studying, Shlok devotes time to making himself fit and sprucing up the garden of his home.

He is a loyal son and a protagonist worth rooting for. In short, the youngsters of today can relate to Shlok and also take a lot of inspiration from him.

Shlok’s relationships with his parents

I always look for good and genuine bonds in a book. And while the story of Sunshine Town isn’t exactly about relationships, I found the bonds that Shlok shared with his mother and father very genuine and tender.

I believe that most Indian middle-class youth have similar relationships with their parents today. Shlok’s mother is the typical Indian mother; always caring, always supporting. Shlok’s father, while a serious figure, is his son’s guiding light and through his sage advice is always steering him in the right direction.

I could especially relate to Shlok’s relationship with his father – it reminded me of my own bonding with my dad.

Message of motivation

The inherent and underlying message of Sunshine Town is laudable. It would make the perfect read for teens appearing for their 12th exams and for those who are already in college but are at a crossroads on what path to take ahead.

Through Shlok’s journey - from the preparation for his class 12 exams to the eventual course he takes - we get to know about the various prospects young Indian students have in their career and how they should not lose hope even if they fail in the entrance examinations. It talks about finding a true goal for oneself and looking within. It tells us that despite fate not being kind towards your hard work, despite everything coming to a standstill, despite the roadblocks, there is always some light for everyone to latch on to; a lot can be achieved through unyielding toil and finding a proper guide in life.

These messages will work well for the Indian youth if taken in the right spirit.

What I felt could have been better:

While I liked Sunshine Town, I wish it was a tad longer; the story felt rushed at certain places.

I wanted to know more about the love story between Shlok and Natasha and the friendship the boy had with Yana. The latter, especially, was an interesting, happy-go-lucky character that helped Shlok through a difficult time. I would have loved to see some more time spent on the duo’s friendship.

The essence of the city of Varanasi should have been explored. I get that the focus was on the young boy and his ambition, but using the charm of the town of Varanasi could have added a different color to the story, in my view.

Also, in the prologue, we already get to know that Shlok is a successful professional before he dives back into his past. I felt that had that not been revealed, Shlok’s journey towards success in the story would have had that much more anticipation and interest as a reader.

The cover could have been better. It did not speak to me or attract me. And nor did I find it to be connected to the story. Maybe, a new cover in the reprint, where the protagonist is actually in action, might serve better.


Sunshine Town is an easy-to-read, breezy novel that should appeal to the Indian youth and their parents to an extent. It has a nice and different concept and is written in a simple language.

If you are an Indian teenager and bored of the endless barrage of campus romance novels out there, then you can try Sunshine Town. It will help you get some clarity and push in your career. It’s good to feel motivated every once in a while, after all.


  1. Wow that sounds like a good one time read for sure with something new on offer.

    Also, the connect that you had and the memories that it invoked. That's precisely what works for me I can say, I love those stories and books more which work like a time machine for me, just the way this one did with you.

    And lest I forget :) I am sure that name Shlok must have made you a little bit more happy isn't that the name of your Nephew? :)


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  4. Thank You Bhavesh. Before I express my thoughts on your review of Sunshine Town, I am digressing slightly to express the nature of thoughts and feelings it evoked in me. Reading through the review, I recalled an interview. It was Mahmood’s interview, am sure you could find it in YouTube.
    During the shoot of Bombay to Goa, it was (I think) the first film of Amitabh Bacchan, Mahmood had given clear instructions to his crew that the moment the dance sequence of Amitabh B gets over, everyone is going to clap and shout – ‘it is awesome and the best dance ever.’ The crew did the same as directed. But, ages later, Mahmood revealed in his interview that during the dance sequence Amitabh made a lot of mistakes and it was not a great dancing, but he attempted, and he tried his best. He needed that cushion at that point in time being new to the industry. Here, neither I am Amitabh, nor you are Mahmood, but your writing has a lot of similarities to what Mahmood said in that interview.
    Writing a book review is a big responsibility, it is an art, it needs careful crafting of words highlighting the purpose of the book, the deeper aspects it covers and then giving the right feedback to the author to improve further in his creative journey. I found your feedback very apt because it went beyond the layers of language to understand the areas it is trying to address – ‘Teenage Depression related to their career ordeals’. It is a very difficult phase for them, and they feel lonely even though they have everyone around them. It’s their own inner fight to keep themselves motivated and afloat. I wanted to specifically cover this aspect in an interesting way in Sunshine Town.
    Your review has done a perfect justice to my writing and my efforts of five years to bring this creative piece to my teenage readers. I don’t crave for starry ratings and jazzed up reviews, but I do crave to learn how this book is making its readers feel, is it going to enrich their lives in the way I want it to. Authors are always needy, and I am sure you understand this well.
    I also want to bring another point here, In my fifteen years of corporate journey, there is one lesson I learnt hard way that ‘when you talk or write about anyone (let’s say an author or a friend or a relative) you have to assume as if that person is sitting next to you or reading what you are writing, this brings the right amount of checks in delivering the communication because when we assume the person is in front of us, the chances are that we would be more articulative and crafty and be more constructive in giving feedback rather than destructive. I felt the glimpses of that lesson in your writing.
    As a writer, I have moved ahead from Sunshine Town, my second book is tentatively scheduled for a launch in August 2018 and it is meant for dense and mature readers since it is an amalgamation of meditation and reading habits to bring meaning to life. It’s cover design and title finalization is in progress and it is going through legal approval process from my organization. I am hoping by mid this year I would send you the review copy ahead of its launch.

    After reading your review, my respect for your writing has moved many notches up and I wish you all the success in your life as a writer. I told you on phone last time, you are a great writer and a great talent.

    1. Thank you, Maniissh for that gracious and lovely reply.

      I loved that bit about Bombay to Goa. Very interesting.

      Writing a book review, actually, is something I don;t really enjoy. I feel uncomfortable judging someone's work. Hence, I refrain from giving out stars or mentioning what all was wrong with a creative work. However, if a book does impact me, I do like to share my views. And I tried to do it here with honesty. I am humbled that you liked it.

      Your point about a corporate communication and its comparisons with a review of a work of art is fascinating. It made me look at my review in a different perspective and will add a different layer to my future reviews. Thank you for this.

      I will look forward to your second novel. The fact that it is meant for mature readers has definitely got me interested.I would be privileged to read and review its copy.

      I thank you again for the generous words you have shared here. I am trying my little bit in writing and honing my skills everyday. It feels great to appreciated by a published author himself.

      My heartiest congratulations to you on Sunshine Town and best wishes for the next endeavor. This has been a great experience!